Behind Closed Doors

It was overcast and rainy today.  So we stayed in like you do.  With even a couple of times venturing outside, things still got a little wacky today.  Folks were grumpy.  I might have overreacted to spilled water.  The dog barked way too much at the cat outside and anytime someone made a sudden move.  Folks couldn’t get along about what movie to watch or game to play and they couldn’t work together to get chores done.  Or respond to requests for action the first three times they were asked.  They We all got cranky.

Not our best day.

I blame it on being stir crazy.

That’s a thing, right?  When I worked in childcare, and we had days or weeks of inclement weather, we talked about the children (and others *ahem*) being stir crazy.  One summer when the temperature reached so high it was too hot for us to play outside, I remember Mama sending us outside in the dark after our baths to run around in our nightgowns just to burn some energy off.  Now I know that was as much for her as it was for us.

Last night I wrote about a man who was so thankful that because of his job he could afford to turn on the cable, so his children could stay indoors and be safe.  He lives in a neighborhood where it isn’t safe for them to be outside.  I cannot imagine what that life is like, y’all.

Today, in the middle of all of our crankiness, I sat with that for a bit.  If these children are staying inside as much as possible to protect them from violence and being susceptible to drugs and gang activity and worse, other bad things can happen.  Things that aren’t as immediately harmful, but the long-term effects could be devastating.

These children are more susceptible to obesity because they can’t get out and run around.  Sitting inside is necessary for survival, but their little feet need to run free as do their spirits.   When I think about the joy it brings me watching Cooter’s hair flying behind him as he rides his bike up and down the street, I grieve for these parents and children who cannot experience that.   For the ones in school, I cannot imagine that the limited amount of time spent in PE could completely satisfy their need to run around.  Limited physical activity combined with limited budget for purchasing healthy foods can contribute to even more health problems.  Many of these neighborhoods are food deserts as well, with few choices for shopping for foods other than snacks or highly processed foods.

My front porch is a “laboratory.”  Many of the children on our street come and pick leaves and grass and flower blossoms and concoct all sorts of things.  Later they might be running around with pool noodles, using them for goodness only knows, and running around between yards, laughing and chasing and teasing and hiding, and doing all the wonderful things their imaginations come up with.  (They also have disagreements, which they have to resolve among themselves for the most part, and that is really good for them too.)

This little neighborhood is where my children are learning about community.  About sharing each other’s ups and downs and sitting with each other when they are hurting…..physically and emotionally.  I am not saying that these children who are inside all day aren’t learning about community, but I worry about what they are learning about it.  I hope there is a community center or somewhere they can get out and learn that people really do care and that there is joy to be found in caring about others and sharing the journey.

Because, if today is any indication, what happens behind closed doors can escalate fast.  I cannot imagine what it is like for these parents who are working multiple jobs, fighting to pay bills and stay afloat, worrying over keeping their littles–and their teens–safe and in school.  I can only imagine the pressure they must feel.  Perhaps they are fighting monsters of their own.  And then they are stuck in this place with few choices, where their community is not safe.

Without community to support them or options to explore, things can turn for the worse.  People who feel that they have no options or anyone to turn to–I get how frustrating and devastating that can be.  All of that has to go somewhere.  All too often it goes to substance abuse or abuse to others.

I’m not saying these families are doomed.  What I am saying is that I am starting to realize how far-reaching the impact of growing up in unsafe neighborhoods can be.  It can affect everything from nutrition and health to social skills to self-esteem, focus, and the ability to dream about the future.  Imaginations can suffer, as can relationships.  Parents who are struggling and have no support can succumb to the darkness.  The youth without anywhere to go might look for any way out–even the one they know is not the wisest choice.  Many might find themselves in situations outside the law–our Youth Detention Centers and prisons are filled with people who made poor choices in desperate situations.  My own friend grew up in a home without many choices, which contributed to his addiction problems as he tried to numb the pain.  He has been in and out of jails and rehab facilities.  All because at one point as a young person, he felt he was out of choices.

I am broken because tonight, as I wrote this, I was waiting to hear about the appeals that were in the U.S. Supreme Court to save the life of Joshua Bishop by giving him a stay of execution.  He was abused and neglected as a child, and when he was barely a legal adult, he and an older man murdered a friend with whom they’d been drinking and doing drugs.  The older man was sentenced to life in prison.  This young man was given the death sentence.  He is reformed and has been a good role model for others while in prison.  The families of the victims have asked that his sentence be commuted.  Seven out of the twelve jurors who sentenced him to death have asked for the sentence to be changed to life in prison.  Yet the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has said no, as did the Georgia Supreme Court.  And then, so did SCOTUS.  And so, tonight at 9:27 p.m. he was executed.

It’s all so broken.  I want to scream and yell–WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?!

I am left to wonder, as I ask for Grace and Mercy, what part his community or lack thereof played in all of this?

Tonight I’m holding all of this in my heart, and I ask what we–because it will take all of us as a COMMUNITY–can do to change things for these families, for these neighborhoods?  What are we missing out on because one of these children–and there are so many of them–didn’t reach his or her full potential because of the broken community they were raised in?   Because their community was unable to circle close around and provide guidance and safety and encouragement and rules and advice and resources and options…..

all the things I was raised with but took for granted every single day.

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Y’all we need to grab these children and families up and wrap them in a big hug and then ask them how we can help them change their world as best as we are able in whatever way looks best for them. Because here’s the deal–their world is our world and our world is theirs.  There’s no us and them–it’s all we and us.  In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer:  “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

I’ll meet y’all outside.  Let’s make it safe for all, so no one has to be afraid behind a locked door.  And miss out when the good things come knocking at that door.

Love to all.

*******************************************************

You can read more about Joshua Bishop’s case here.

This video is a powerful one, a message from a local Superior Court judge to young people.  YES.  I am thankful for her words and the fact that she cares.

http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local/macon/watch-bibb-county-judge-lays-in-on-wayward-teens/112000603

 

 

 

 

Mama Said

there’d be days like this.  There’d be days like this, my Mama said.  (Thank you, Shirelles and others.)

Days where there are way more questions than answers.

And those questions lead to more questions.

But wait!  That’s not all…..

sit and think about this particular something, and then there are all the questions cropping up from a totally different situation in addition to what is already churning through your mind.

And it just goes downhill from there.

Today hasn’t been an awful one, not by any means.  Days that bring beautiful people across my path and ones that have me savoring the leftover memories from past days…..those can be actually quite lovely.

But the unexpected things that can crop up…..and expected, dreaded ones as well.  Those are what can turn one’s sanity all topsy turvy and toss it around like a tennis ball in the dryer.

All over the place.

It in the midst of those that I feel the most lost.  I’m the one some folks are looking to for guidance now, bless ’em.  Like my 11 year old who came in with so much anxiety, I suspect it could have been a panic attack.

It is enough to fling me straight into one right along with her.

I don’t know exactly when the shift happened.  Maybe it was when my parents were no longer here or years before when I became a parent for the first time myself.  All I know is, it can get really awkward when folks are looking to me, and I turn around looking for the one who really knows what is going on.

I don’t have the answers to all the questions.  I don’t even have any good advice to offer on the days when all the questions keep roaring through, refusing to allow for rest or peace or comfort.  All I know is, some days it’s okay to simply survive.  It’s okay to make do, to do what it takes to get by, and to take the grace offered in sleep and waking up to a new day.

I guess that’s why I’ve clicked like on every single one of the memes that proclaim that resurrection can be an everyday experience.  Yes.  That.  I need to believe in that.  That each and every day, hour if need be, we can rise from the death and doubt and find new life.

Every single time.

Some days are just like that.  And those are the ones when resurrection matters the most.

The courage, the love, the faith, the determination, and the good people around us–and we rise up and try again.  One more time.

Love to all.

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via LoveWinsMinistries.org  Go check them out.  They are doing amazing things and showing the beauty that can come from practicing resurrection.  

 

 

Positive to Positive, Negative to Ground

Bamboo arrows

Bamboo arrows (Photo credit: dog.breath)

Today I’ve been visiting with a friend, who is fighting hard the mindset of a victim. Don’t get me wrong, she has enough in her life to feel persecuted and put upon by, but I really hope she doesn’t lose the battle.  This is what I wish I had said.

My sweet friend,

You are not a victim.  Not every arrow you see flying through the air was meant for you.  Duck.  Don’t let it land on your heart and make you bitter.  Sometimes arrows hit targets they weren’t aiming for.  Don’t be that person who walks around accepting the direct hits, none of which were meant for you.  Sometimes people are who they are, without considering how it affects other folks.  Inconsiderate?  Yes.  Intentionally cruel? Alas, no.  Sometimes it just “be’s” that way.

I remember an episode of Gilligan’s Island when a “witch doctor” made voodoo dolls of the castaways.  Supposedly people who have voodoo dolls of a person can make that person do all kinds of crazy things, by moving the figure or poking pins in them and things like that.  No one, NO ONE AT ALL, has a voodoo doll of you.  No one has control over your thoughts and actions and moods and behaviors. Unless you give it to them.   It’s all up to you, dear one.  How about trying to treat your voodoo doll, YOURSELF, a little kinder?

When someone drives really slow in front of you and you are running late and driving with a sense of purpose, they are not doing it to make you crazy.  It has nothing to do with you.  Same thing at the checkout counter with the person doing a price check on every item before committing (and sorry about that by the way).  The neighbor with the big truck who cranks up and drives off with a roar of a loud engine at 11:15 every night.  Again, none of this done with you in mind.  Arrows not meant for you.  No mal-intent at all.  So much in this world happens that you could take on your heart.

Don’t.

Just don’t.

You have a big, precious heart, but you are quite unkind to someone I care about and I have to call you on it.
Yourself.

Love yourself and learn to let some things go.  One of my favorite phrases when something happens lately has been, “Yeah, that’s about right.”  It’s my way of SMH’ing and LOL’ing all rolled into one.  And that’s how I hope you will be able to cope.  Just let it roll off your back and laugh it off.

Turns out my little guy Cooter has been listening better than I thought.  Two weeks ago my cousin came out to teach my girl about her car, especially how to use jumper cables.  He even brought her a pair.  “Most folks have a good battery they can let you use–not everyone has the cables.” (Smart and generous. Love him.)  He explained it step by step.

Picture courtesy of carandriver.com

Picture courtesy of carandriver.com

This evening when I was speaking with you, Cooter heard me say to you, “Be positive!  Positive. Positive. Positive.”

That’s when he piped up.  “Negative to ground.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

Just yes.

How did my cousin explain that?  You don’t put negative to negative because it could blow things up.  Oh my land, ain’t that the absolute truth?  Best thing to do is exactly what Cooter said, “Throw that negative to the ground.  Drop it and bury it.”  Well maybe not exactly, but you see where I’m going with this.

Don’t feed those negative thoughts that try to creep in.  You’ve got this.  You are NOT a victim.  People in your past hurt you, and I wish I could change that.  But you, you are stronger and better than that already.  If you let your heart soar and throw down the negative that is keeping you grounded, you will reach heights not even imagined.  You have it in you to do great things.  More than you already have.  Now LET YOURSELF.  It’s okay.  Give yourself the grace you give everyone else so freely.  LET YOURSELF go and do and be and soar.

And if one of those arrows does happen to hit, I’m here to listen and love and sit with you as the pain subsides.  But don’t go chasing those arrows and looking for them to hit you.  You are not the one the arrows were looking for.  Let them pass.

Or, in the words of my wise Daddy, “Don’t go borrowing trouble.”

I love you, my dear, sweet friend.  Now go and do.  And be kind.  Even to yourself.

Always, Me

***SMH (shaking my head)

***LOL (laughing out loud)